Lear's dilemma - future of Britain & Cordelia

Tripartition of Britain - Lear's grand plan

Kent & Gloster - Lear's attitude to Cornwall

Act 1 Scene 1 - Enter KING LEAR

The flattery game - Goneril & Regan

Sharing the kingdom - a third more opulent

Lear and flattery - did he love it or hate it?

Duke of Burgundy - the dowerless suitor

King of France - in choler parted

Edmund - sectary astronomical

Duke of Albany - worthy prince

Queen Goneril - King Lear's successor?

Oswald - this detested groom

Goneril - under the influence

Regan - is she worse than Goneril?

Goneril/Edmund/Regan - unequilateral triangle

Division 'twixt Albany and Cornwall - rumour

Lear's sanity - recovery

The final tableau - Lear endures his going hence

The last word - Albany or Edgar?

Division 'twixt Albany and Cornwall

Report is changeable

There is a rumour of division between the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany, but there is no evidence that it is ever so.

  • Enter Edmund and Curan
    Curan: Have you heard of no likely wars toward, 'twixt the
    Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
    Edmund: Not a word.
    Curan: You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.

  • Enter Kent and a Gentleman
    Kent: ........ There is division,
    Although as yet the face of it be cover'd
    With mutual cunning, 'twixt Albany and Cornwall;
    Who have — as who have not, that their great stars
    Throned and set high? — servants, who seem no less,
    Which are to France the spies and speculations
    Intelligent of our state; what hath been seen,
    Either in snuffs and packings of the dukes,
    Or the hard rein which both of them have borne
    Against the old kind king; or something deeper,
    Whereof perchance these are but furnishings;
    But, true it is, from France there comes a power
    Into this scatter'd kingdom; who already,
    Wise in our negligence, have secret feet
    In some of our best ports, and are at point
    To show their open banner.

  • Enter Gloster and Edmund, with lights
    Gloster: ........ There's a division betwixt the dukes; and a worse
    matter than that: I have received a letter this night; 'tis
    dangerous to be spoken; I have locked the letter in my
    closet: these injuries the king now bears will be revenged
    home; there's part of a power already footed: we must
    incline to the king.

This is just a rumour! Neither by word nor deed do the dukes express any disagreement. When Cornwall became aware of the French landing at Dover, he sent Edmund to enlist Albany's support. This is the only time he ever mentions Albany and he expresses no animosity, but rather, close cooperation. Within the hour Cornwall is dead.

Cornwall: ..... Advise the duke, where you are going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister:

Not only does Albany call Cornwall 'my good brother' but we sense that he thought that both had been vastly benefited. He expresses no animosity. The reality is that there is no division whatsoever between the dukes.

Albany: Could my good brother suffer you to do it?
A man, a prince, by him so benefited!

So what might be the source of the rumour? Rather obviously the French invaders don't want to face the combined forces of Cornwall and Albany. It would be a good stratagem for the French to have their spies spread rumours suggesting disharmony and disunity among the British, the object being to divide and conquer. Rumours that sound plausible could be easily invented. For example: Lear's Cornwall and Albany, with my two daughters dowers digest the third could be posed as causing a disagreement between the dukes over how Cordelia's 'third more opulent' was to be shared between them.

Who circulated the rumour? Very likely it was Curan, despite only popping up for a mere moment, like any smart spy! A very short while later, possibly within the hour, both Kent and Gloster received letters, presumably from Cordelia, whose French army had already landed in Dover. If Curan were the postman, he may have continued with his spreading of the rumour whilst handing over the letters.

Note that when Kent informed the Gentleman of division between the dukes (see above) it took place after he had received his letter and read it while sitting in the stocks at Gloster's castle:

Kent: ..... by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter! Nothing almost sees miracles
But misery: I know 'tis from Cordelia,
Who hath most fortunately been inform'd
Of my obscured course; and (reading) 'shall find time
From this enormous state, seeking to give
Losses their remedies.'

From the moment Cornwall's death is announced, a 'division', of sorts, really does come into being, but it is only between Goneril and Regan and not their states. Goneril realises that she is very likely to lose Edmund to Regan, while Regan realises the effect on Goneril if she should marry Edmund. Edmund thus becomes a wedge between the sisters and they become enemies.

But Goneril also has other aims and objectives. In an 'Aside' she makes it clear that she has ambitious plans in relation to Britain. What can it be but to rule Britain as queen or, alternatively, that she and Edmund will reign as joint monarchs, once certain inconveniences are disposed of? It seems that her mind quickly encompasses the possibilities to achieve her various goals.

Goneril: [Aside] One way I like this well;
But being widow, and my Gloster with her,
May all the building in my fancy pluck
Upon my hateful life: another way,
The news is not so tart.

Albany's sympathy for Lear is known, but he makes it clear that he thinks the French are not invading Britain in Lear's interest but in their own, and for this reason he is determined to oppose them. Edmund describes this as noble. Regan, though, seems puzzled, as though the mention of Lear is a significant issue. Goneril realises that a successful French invasion, with or without Lear's reinstallation as king, would destroy her so she urges the British forces to unite against France. She dismisses Regan's question as an unimportant issue at this moment with a decisive battle about to be fought.

Albany: ................... for this business,
It toucheth us, as France invades our land,
Not bolds the King, with others, whom, I fear,
Most just and heavy causes make oppose.
Edmund: Sir, you speak nobly.
Regan: Why is this reason'd?
Goneril: Combine together 'gainst the enemy;
For these domestic and particular broils
Are not the question here.

Once victory has been achieved Goneril quickly takes the initiative and poisons Regan, thus resolving their personal 'division'.